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Building a respected wine list at a restaurant can be an arduous process. In many cases, stocking an elite selection of wine can be a waste of an investment if your list is not properly aligned to create a profit. How do you choose a wine list that will truly land with your customers, and create a steady profit you can rely on?

For many restaurants without a sommelier, this question discourages them from even pursuing a formal wine list. But have no fear – here’s how to build a respected, appreciated wine list that will prove a monetary asset to your restaurant.

Never Organize By Price

This is the first and only commandment for creating a wine list – never list your wines by price, even if from highest to lowest. Segmenting off wines in this way will send customers straight to the lower priced options and will illustrate the true span of the prices in a matter of seconds.

You want your customer to explore your entire wine list. Organize your wines with no regard in price, instead listing them in an aesthetically balanced manner all the way down. When price isn’t the organizing factor it seems less important to the customer, who is then more likely to spend the money on a high-margin selection.

Keep Your List Categorized

Don’t list all of your red wines and white wines in one sprawling list. This will leave your customer unmotivated to sort through it, and they may just opt for a soda instead. Take great care to categorize each type of wine. Three to five categories underneath red and white wines should be enough to help your customer along.

When choosing how to categorize the wine, keep your selections consistent. Don’t organize by varietal in one section and by country in another. Choose an organizational method and stick to it for the duration of the wine list. If you’re at a loss, consider organizing by flavor profile, from full to light.
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Incorporate Special Selections

Yes, you can inform your wait staff which wines to upsell, but include visual indicators on your wine list that highlight special or select wines for best results. With a graphic like a star or a circle customer’s eyes will dart right to these specific wines, and more often than not they can be persuaded to make these selections.

Which wines should be highlighted? The mid to the higher-priced wines with the largest margin should certainly be special selections. You can also consider highlighting rare wines that you’re proud of (that other restaurants may not have), as well as wines that you want to rotate out of your current inventory.

Offer Food Pairings

Yes, pairing each wine with a food option may take some time. That’s precisely why most restaurants don’t bother with a full breakdown of food pairings for their wine list. But the consensus among consumers is unanimous: they want food pairings and they want them now.

Customers don’t want to make a bad pairing on their own. They want to be told what works best with your menu so they spend their money on a delicious combination. At minimum, create food-pairing suggestions for some of your wine options and rotate them often so you can give your customers what they want.

Follow these guidelines and more patrons will trust your wine list. You’ll see more wine purchases and more satisfied customers that will return frequently to sample the rest of your wine list.